pre·​tense | \ ˈprē-ˌten(t)s How to pronounce pretense (audio) , pri-ˈten(t)s \
variants: or pretence

Definition of pretense

1 : a claim made or implied especially : one not supported by fact
2a : mere ostentation : pretentiousness confuse dignity with pomposity and pretense— Bennett Cerf
b : a pretentious act or assertion
3 : an inadequate or insincere attempt to attain a certain condition or quality
4 : professed rather than real intention or purpose : pretext was there under false pretenses
6 : false show : simulation saw through his pretense of indifference

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Examples of pretense in a Sentence

We tried to keep up the pretense that everything was fine. Their indifference is merely pretense.
Recent Examples on the Web In other words, White Claw, after building a brand on the premise that its hard seltzers are a healthier alcohol choice than the competition, seems to have pretty much abandoned all pretense surrounding that. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "White Claw's higher-alcohol Surge means Millennials can stop pretending hard seltzer was ever 'healthy'," 15 Apr. 2021 In a time long before making content on YouTube was a full-time job or TikTokers were able to get record deals, the bright-eyed pair excitedly uploaded the content without any pretense or expectations. Ineye Komonibo,, "It’s Time That The World Gets “Caught Up” With VanJess," 5 Feb. 2021 During that time, the statement said, Waithe allegedly often asked to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense of filming their form at practice and competitions., "Former Northeastern track coach arrested on cyberstalking charge; allegedly targeted female student athletes," 7 Apr. 2021 Thus began their fruitful relationship, one that involved Wynne hosting Penkovsky in London, who was visiting under the pretense of cultivate new opportunities in the West. Alex Palmer, Smithsonian Magazine, "The True Story Behind ‘The Courier’," 18 Mar. 2021 Magic man: With their perimeter rotation ravaged by injury, the Magic made little pretense about where the ball was going. Ira Winderman,, "Heat again excel at closing time, edge Magic 102-97 for 10th win in 11 games," 14 Mar. 2021 While on the test drive, Herman allegedly pulled into the parking lot of Zoo Woods Forest Preserve on First Avenue in Riverside, under the pretense of checking the engine components a second time, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Kimberly Fornek,, "La Grange Park man accused of carjacking a van he was test driving, then crashing it on I-80," 12 Mar. 2021 His generosity and lack of pretense were forever evident. Washington Post, "Steven Spurrier blew up the wine world with the Judgment of Paris. His legacy lives on.," 19 Mar. 2021 Ditlevsen’s refusal to present her failings as steps on the path to some mythical plane of self-awareness reminds me of how potent the form can be when stripped of that pretense. New York Times, "Beyond the Cruel Facts of Her Life Are Truths That Cut Deep," 26 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pretense.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pretense

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pretense

Middle English, probably modification of Medieval Latin pretensio, irregular from Latin praetendere

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Time Traveler for pretense

Time Traveler

The first known use of pretense was in the 15th century

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Statistics for pretense

Last Updated

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for pretense



English Language Learners Definition of pretense

: a false reason or explanation that is used to hide the real purpose of something
: an act or appearance that looks real but is false
formal : a claim of having a particular quality, ability, condition, etc.


variants: or pretence \ ˈprē-​ˌtens , pri-​ˈtens \

Kids Definition of pretense

1 : an act or appearance that looks real but is false He made a pretense of studying.
2 : an effort to reach a certain condition or quality His report makes no pretense at completeness.

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